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Black Ghosts-bookcover

By: Ken N Kamoche

Black Ghosts

Pages: 376 Ratings: 4.6
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Dan Chiponda earns a scholarship to study in China and reluctantly leaves Zimbabwe for an uncertain future. While stoically dealing with racial abuse in a country where Africans are known as black ghosts, he is too timid to engage in the money-making schemes available to students. Yet he remains haunted by the weight of his mother’s expectations, encapsulated by the image of the African fish eagle. But the best he can do is a safe job in a bar run by the enigmatic Wang. Things take a dramatic turn when Chinese students pour into the streets in an orgy of violence to drive Africans out of town. Dan’s first impulse is to escape to Zimbabwe but the pressure from his family and the love for his girlfriend Lai Ying force him to stay put. In the aftermath of the riots, tight rules force the foreign students to create innovative ways to see their girlfriends, and in the midst of all this, Lai Ying gets pregnant and secretly procures an abortion. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Ken N Kamoche was born and raised in Kenya. He was educated at the University of Nairobi and the University of Oxford. He is a management academic, occasional newspaper columnist and writer of fiction. Ken’s collection of short stories, A Fragile Hope (Salt, 2007), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Award. After travelling frequently to Asia, Ken took up a job in Hong Kong in 1998 supposedly for two years. The two years soon turned into ten, involved extensive travel up and down China, and ultimately inspired this novel.

Customer Reviews
11 reviews
11 reviews
  • Monica Choy

    Thank you so much for that fascinating discussion and the novel which I read and loved. I understand you lived in Hong Kong and travelled widely in China. This really comes through in the way you capture life in both places, the descriptions, the way the people speak, the use Cantonese and Mandarin words. It's so genuine it feels like it's written by a local Chinese. I just want to share one example. When you describe the restaurants in China, it is so real, it really brings back those smells I remember when visiting China as a young girl in the 80s. It's amazing! How did you manage to capture something like that so vividly?

  • Thomas Abonyo

    Great, true and moving story that awakens my experience back in the years while studying in Shanghai and later working in Shenzhen. Keep fetching for more bro, kudos!

  • Eileen Jiti

    This book is a truly epic tale. It is many things: a love story in a difficult time when African students struggled to fit into life in China, discovering Chinese history and culture, and Chinese people learning about Africa. It is about the exciting things that were happening as China opened up in the 1980s, and how local business people started to emerge. It is about Africans making a life for themselves in Hong Kong. It's totally amazing how Ken captured the lives of his characters so convincingly you can actually see them. You can almost smell the foods in China, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe and see the burning farms in rural Zim! You experience the joys and pains of Lai Ying scared of loan sharks, Dan struggling to find his runaway wife, Jupiter's broken home. I can't recommend this book enough. Well done Ken. I will treasure this amazing story and I look forward to your next novel!!

  • Joseph

    This is a fascinating story that tells the stories of black people's experiences in China. You can learn so much, not just about africans but also about China! Ken makes it sound so real you can almost see the people, hear them, empathise with their struggles and share in their joys. You must all purchase a copy of this book, especially if you are a serious reader.

  • Dr Catherine Wanjiku

    This is a truly wonderful and enjoyable book. I learned so much about Africans in Asia. I had no idea about this diaspora. Ken is a truly gifted writer. He has an eye for detail that makes the story come alive in every sense, whether it's the Chinese festival celebrations or war vets in Zimbabwe taking over white farms by force. You feel you're really there in reality, transported and made a part of these people's lives. Without a doubt one of the finest books I've read for years. Thank you so much, Ken. I can't say how many times this story brought tears to my eyes.

  • May Cheng

    What a book! What really strikes you is this author's ability to sneak up on you and tell you the story behind the story - you think you're reading about conflicts between African and Chinese students, then he hits you with a story about the terrible things the authorities do to wayward professors. You're reading about the woman in Hong Kong who beats up her domestic, then you realize the real story is about the sad little boy who'll be forever traumatized, and the dad who fails to protect his child even as he keeps repeating the Confucian mantra 'family is everything'. This author's grasp and knowledge of Chinese history and culture is truly amazing. He comes through as a mix of of traditional story teller who thrills and captivates, enlightens, but also has such a keen eye for detail, he's like a travel writer. He literally places you right in the action, in the lecture theater with the fatherly prof Sheng, the student bar listening to the enigmatic Wang describe the terrible life under Mao, the Chinese street festivals, African tobacco rolling hills and the horrific fires, the little girl who dreams of visiting relatives in Africa but is hidden away in Shanghai. When I finished this book, I put it down and literally cried. It was all too much, but in a positive way. I can't wait for Ken's next tour de force.

  • P Chan

    I wasn't sure what to expect when a friend said here's a book about China by an African writer. Turns out Ken was a professor in Hong Kong when he began this book, and his knowledge of Chinese practices, history, culture is second to none. The research is meticulous - he weaves these important historical events and characters with so much ease you don't get bogged down with unnecessary clutter, but instead see their relevance and how they shape the characters. The pace is fast and riveting, there's never a dull moment. You get to experience the troubled love affair and really feel Dan's and Lai Ying's pain, the inability even to hold hands on the street, treating each other like strangers on the buses. It's hard to imagine that sort of thing happening today. But that was the late 1980s, before China opened up. I was raised in Hong Kong and thoroughly enjoyed being reminded of the buzz in that city, the cramped flats, busy streets where you had to watch your pockets, an unnerving mobile-phone culture, the great food, especially dim sum in little eateries in Mong Kok, trips on the jetfoil to Macau to gamble. This novel shows you what it's like to live as a foreigner, never mind where - the issues of alienation are always there, the struggles, the abuse, etc. In these modern times with wars and refugees and discrimination in Europe and the West, inter-racial relationships and the struggle to fit and be accepted, this novel is totally timely, and what a joy to read!

  • Musa Mangena

    A excellent and enjoyable novel. Difficult to put down once you start reading; you just want to continue reading!

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